The top two seniors at High School in the Community headed off to college early and met a tough transition—highlighting a key challenge for the school system as it puts a greater focus on preparing kids for higher ed.
The students, Solanlly Canas and Chastity Berrios (pictured), were two of 15 New Haven high school seniors who enrolled full-time at the University of New Haven in January as part of a scholarship program.
The friends, who moved here as young children from Colombia and Puerto Rico, arrived on the college campus with a fiery sense of purpose and determination that has helped them overcome heartbreaking obstacles in their lives.
Now, they said, they are experiencing an “overwhelming” start to their college careers, facing challenges that could easily derail kids with less grit and persistence.
A “Promise” Challenge, Too
Patricia Melton, executive director of New Haven Promise, the city’s college scholarship program, said the tough transition is common among first-time college-goers. She experienced the same challenge in her own life.
“I faced that kind of shock around the rigor when I moved from a public to private school,” Melton recalled. For her, the transition took place from an urban middle school in Cleveland to a private boarding school. All of a sudden, she recalled, she was being asked to do three to four hours of homework per night and read The Odyssey. “Every other word I had to look up,” she recalled. The shift from urban high school to college is similarly difficult, she said.
“That’s a big shock that I think a lot of students face,” Melton said. “Let’s say you’re not coming from a particularly rigorous high school, and then you go to college where you’re expected to be self-directed. You’re expected to do most of your learning outside of the classroom, as opposed to inside of the classroom—that’s a big paradigm shift.”